The Czech Republic has ordered 52 French Caesar 155-mm self-propelled gun-howitzers. This order includes an option to obtain 12 more on the same terms. The initial order includes maintenance equipment, spares, tech support and two simulators. All this will cost about $250 million. The Caesar vehicles won’t start to arrive until 2022 and all will be delivered by 2026.
The Czechs need to replace decades old Dana 152 mm artillery systems that do not meet current NATO requirements. For one thing, 152mm caliber artillery isn’t compatible with the NATO 155 mm standard and the range of shells fired from the Dana weapon was insufficient because the Czech Republic wants artillery with a 42 kilometers range using standard ammunition or 55 kilometers with VLAP (Very Long-range Artillery Projectile). The Dana 152mm was able to fire only up to 25 kilometers with the new OFdDV extended range ammo or up 19 kilometers older ammunition. During 2017-2019 the Czechs evaluated eight modern artillery systems and the French made Caesar was rated as the most cost-effective system.
A French firm developed its truck-mounted 155mm Caesar in the 1990s and it entered service in 2003. In 2009 France sent eight Caesar howitzers to Afghanistan. The roads in Afghanistan are pretty bad, and wheeled combat vehicles have a hard time of it. But Caesar was built to handle cross country operations as well as bad roads. Afghanistan was the first time Caesar has served in combat and the truck-mounted howitzer was successful. The French Army has ordered about a hundred and another hundred have been exported.
Caesar is the lightest of the truck-mounted 155mm howitzers, weighing 18 tons. Other nations have built heavier (20-30 ton) systems, usually on a 6x6 heavy truck chassis. China recently introduced a vehicle of this type while Israel and South Africa introduced similar models at about the same time Caesar appeared.
The Czech Caesar artillery pieces will be mounted on the heavier 30-ton 8x8 Tatra made chassis which entered service in 2015. This chassis is much better armored than standard 6x6 version and can carry more ammunition, up to 30 rounds compared to 18 in the French 18-ton Caesar vehicle. To keep the same level of mobility the new variant also received a more powerful engine (410 horse power). Moreover, the Tatra chassis version has an autoloading system that boosts the rate of fire above 6 rounds per minute and it can be operated by only 3 soldiers instead of four on the French version.
The Czechs have found a convenient way to get modern NATO compatible artillery systems which will be party produced locally, because the Tatra Trucks are Czech made. -- Przemyslaw Juraszek